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Duxbury hiring new town counsel, manager

DUXBURY — Duxbury will begin the year with two new people in central positions in its government: town counsel and town manager.

Selectmen are expected to make a decision Monday on whom to hire as the next town counsel. The candidates include current interim counsel Arthur P. Kreiger; Barbara Saint Andre of Petrini & Associates PC of Framingham; and Lisa Mead of Blatman, Bobrowski & Mead, LLC of Concord, Millis, and Newburyport.  

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“All three firms would do an excellent job,” Selectman David Madigan said at a meeting last Monday. Selectmen said they wanted a more detailed fee breakdown from each of the firms before making a final decision.

Meanwhile, the board is also looking to replace Town Manager Richard MacDonald, 65, who plans to retire at the end of January.

The town had hoped to have a new person in place by then, but it’s more likely one will be hired by April in time for the annual Town Meeting, said Ted Flynn, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “We have a pretty aggressive schedule that I’m sure we will not meet,” he said.

Selectmen recently named a town manager search committee of 14 people, including personnel board members, human resources staff, and residents. Applications from town manager candidates were due by Dec. 14, and the committee was expected to choose a maximum of three finalists who will be interviewed by selectmen during a public meeting, said Jeannie Horne, human resources director.

MacDonald’s salary was $147,285 through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, though he won’t receive the full amount due to his retirement, Horne said.

She said the impending changes in Town Hall aren’t a worry for most in Duxbury.

“I think we are a very stable community,” Horne said. “Any time there’s a change, there’s a bit of concern. But I wouldn’t say people are wringing their hands over these changes.”

The town is well positioned to welcome a new counsel and manager, she said. “Someone isn’t going to walk into the Town of Duxbury from either standpoint, town counsel or manager, and inherit a big mess they have to untangle. We’re doing a good job, and it’s a great assignment for either one of those roles.”

In the meantime, the town will continue to conduct business as usual with its current professional staff.

“The town manager retiring will be a loss, but he’s put together a phenomenal team over the last seven years,” said Flynn. “We’ve got a lot of experts and expertise that will remain in place. The challenge for the Board of Selectmen is choosing the right person who can keep that management staff together and moving forward.”

He said the candidates for town counsel are all experienced in municipal government and state affairs and most have a client base of other municipalities.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch for them to learn the ins and outs of Duxbury,” Flynn said. “Our search committee did a very credible job in giving us town counsel candidates and I expect the town manager committee will do the same.”

Town counsel is paid per an agreement negotiated between the town and law firm, based both on a monthly fee for certain kinds of work and an hourly rate for work outside the flat-rate agreement. The rates proposed by the three finalists ranged from an annual fee of $50,000 to $108,000, with each agreement including and excluding different services, such as litigation and land use cases, where the town would pay an additional hourly rate.

Kreiger has settled a number of old cases in the seven months since his firm was named interim town counsel, selectmen said, as well as submitting the highest bid. But selectmen said paying less wasn’t necessarily in the town’s best interest.

“There’s something you can’t put into dollars and cents, which is the quality of service,” said Flynn. “I would not want to hire town counsel on price and that being the whole driver.”

The search committee received 13 applications and conducted seven interviews in public meetings before settling on the three finalists.

Kreiger is from the firm of Anderson and Kreiger LLP of Cambridge and specializes in insurance, environmental, and land use law. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1981 and the University of Pennsylvania in 1977.

The town appointed Kreiger interim town counsel in May after it fired Robert Troy, its counsel of 26 years, following a lawsuit brought against the town by Johnson Golf Management Inc.

Johnson, which held the contract to manage the North Hill Golf Course and Country Club for 10 years until 2008, alleges that the town conspired to prevent the award to Johnson of a five-year extension of the contract. The town fired Troy after selectmen said he was not truthful in a court motion pertaining to Johnson’s suit against the town.

Saint Andre, a principal in her law firm, which focuses on municipal law, land use and zoning, housing, and civil litigation, previously worked as a principal at Kopelman and Paige P.C., where she spent 21 years as town counsel to cities and towns across the state. She graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 1981 and received her bachelor of science degree in government from Suffolk in 1979.

Mead has for eight years been a partner at Blatman, Bobrowski & Mead LLC, which specializes in general municipal and land use, with most of its clients town governments and boards. The firm currently serves as town counsel in Kingston, Ashland, and Bellingham, and is assistant town counsel in Marblehead and Deerfield.

Mead was a former city solicitor for Somerville and a former three-term mayor and two-term city councilor in Newburyport. She graduated from the New England School of Law in 1987 and the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1984.

Sarah Coffey can be reached at srmcoffey@yahoo.com.
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